RANGOON — A teenage member of an anti-drugs group was shot and killed on Friday while clearing poppy fields in Kachin State’s Tanai Township, according to a spokesperson for the local organization.
“While we were destroying a poppy farm, he was shot and died on the trip,” said Naw Tawng of Christian anti-drugs organization Pat Ja San that organized the poppy eradication mission.
The 19-year-old ethnic Kachin man, Tu Seng, was helping to destroy a poppy plantation on Jan. 15 when he was shot dead by a gunman suspected to be the farm’s owner, according to Naw Tawng.
The victim was from Mogaung Township and took part in the mission alongside 600 other members of the organization, the spokesperson said.
Pat Ja San’s members use knives and sticks to destroy opium poppies in townships across Kachin State, with the group’s recent mission in Tanai Township beginning on Jan. 12.
According to the Myanmar Times, the group was established by the Kachin Baptist Church in 2014 and claims a membership of some 100,000 people.
This was the group’s first deadly incident, according to Naw Tawng.
“We want to see our young people serve the country or be good civil servants. But we have found that many of our young Kachin become slaves to the drugs or… die at a young age,” he said.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the total area under opium cultivation in Burma in 2015 was estimated at 55,500 hectares, including 4,200 hectares in Kachin State.
While the figure represented a 4 percent decrease from 2014, Burma remains the second-largest opium producer in the world after Afghanistan.